How good content can save you from a PR disaster

Good content can save you from a PR disaster. Fact.

Effective content tells visitors exactly what they need to know, and it can start the road to rebuilding consumer confidence. Rebuilding trust can take time, so it’s best to start as soon as possible!

Here, we’ll explore how good content can save you from a PR disaster, we’ll even use a real-life example to hammer the message home. Interested? Take a look:

Why you need good content during a PR disaster

A PR disaster could be anything; a product fault, your boss saying the wrong thing at a lunch (Trump’s team is pretty good at this), or a simple customer complaint.

In these situations, you need to act fast to create targeted content that addresses the issue, and get it posted on your website and social media channels asap.

Why? Well, your website should play a key part in your crisis-management strategy. It’s your customer’s first port of call when looking for information. So, it makes sense that you need top-notch content on your front page that will tell them all they need to know.

Social media is another avenue disgruntled visitors are likely to explore. 47% of consumers will expect a response within an hour and 84% within a maximum of 24 hours. It’s best to get ahead of the curve, and provide as much information as you can there first. This may help avoid a massive influx of tweets, angry messages and grumpy faces.

However, your social media content needs to be of high quality. If it falls flat, or doesn’t provide enough relevant information, your reputation may sink even lower!

How to make sure your content is up to scratch:

So, we’ve established that good content can save you from a PR disaster – or can at least help with the potential backlash. Now, here are the key things your content should do to ensure you’re being helpful and effective:

1. Speak directly to your users

If a PR disaster strikes, you can hazard a guess that your users aren’t just visiting your site to read your latest blog.

So, your content needs to address the situation head-on and direct your customers towards any next steps. Identify their key goals for coming to your site, and make sure your content helps achieve them.

This is the time to use every educational content trick you can muster. Within a very short space of time you must explain the problem and the solution – and guess what, there might be more than one!

Your page must speak to the whole of your audience, not just a segment, so make sure you cover all possible scenarios.

2. Don’t use jargon or fluff

Readers hate flowery text – especially when they’re looking for a specific answer. They simply want to get to the point and find what they need to know.

Use short, concise sentences, with little embellishment. Remember, your readers just want to move to the next stage in the process.

3. Be real

Good content can save you from a PR disaster if it shows your company to be authentic and genuine. If it doesn’t, it can make your brand seem uncaring and disingenuous – labels which can be hard to shake off!

If something went wrong at your end, put your hands up and assume responsibility at the earliest opportunity. This will help your audience trust you and present you in a more sympathetic light to the media, public and any industry bodies.

4. Format your page like a pro

Formatting is super-important for content creation during a PR disaster. The information on your page needs to be clear, accessible and easy to read – otherwise your audience may not find it.

Frontload the important stuff at the top of the page. This is where you can address your audience’s main concerns.

Use bullets and sub-heads to make the page scannable, and help visitors find the information they need.

This is one instance where including images might not be a good idea. They’re likely to detract from the content’s informative nature and using them may send out the wrong message.

5. Timing is crucial!

Timing is key in content marketing – understood – but it’s even more important for brands experiencing a PR meltdown.

Good content can save you from a PR disaster if it gets out early enough. As soon as you know an unwanted event is coming, start creating this content and put it up on your website.

Sadly, you can’t always plan for the unexpected, but you can update your pages as more information unfolds.

Example: Ryanair

The last couple of months haven’t been great for airlines. Ryanair has cancelled some 700,000 flights and Monarch Airlines has collapsed leaving over 110,000 holidaymakers stranded.

Both airlines made some effort to inform customers of their situation – Monarch sent a text out at 04:00 BST – but we can’t help feeling that that was a little … inadequate.

Using what we’ve just learned about good content in a PR disaster, we’ll analyse Ryanair’s attempt to inform customers to see where improvements might be needed.

What did Ryanair do?

The bosses at Ryanair were forced to cancel thousands of flights after “messing up” their pilots’ holiday rota. This led to passengers missing out on holidays and being stranded in their destinations (though that doesn’t sound all bad).

So, to help its customers, Ryanair put up this page on its website. It’s a little hidden-away on the homepage, but it’s there, we promise!

While it contains some information, it’s quite sparse, contains several links to other pages, and doesn’t really tell the customer what they want to know, which is …

“Can I still go on my holiday to Spain?”

Let’s start off with the introduction. We’re pretty sure people looking at this page aren’t interested in:

  • Ryanair being Europe’s largest airline
  • The company slowing down growth (CORPORATE JARGON ALERT!)
  • The precise number of planes the slow-down involves
  • That they are part of the 1% of passengers affected by schedule changes

This section doesn’t address the user’s problem, core objective, or indeed anything that’s specific to them. Ryanair has made this page all about its business – something that might cause some readers to turn against the company.

We think Ryanair could have been more honest in its introduction. If it apologised for the error and inconvenience, this might have gone some way to avoiding a PR disaster.

Next is the FAQ section. On an information page like this, you probably don’t need to refer to it as such. You just need the information to be visible, as it’s all likely to be relevant for your visitor.

While this section answers some questions about refunds and replacement flights, it doesn’t tell you if:

a) you’re eligible for a refund/replacement

b) your flight has been cancelled in the first place

For the latter, you need to go to a separate question, then a different page, trawl through a couple of PDFs and hope your flight isn’t listed. We’d say a widget where you add your destination, date and flight number would be better here.

We’d also make a bigger thing of the contact us section. Perhaps repositioning it in a textbox in a prominent position, and including buttons that take visitors exactly where they need to go.

Changes like these would vastly improve the customer experience for Ryanair passengers, help rebuild relationships, and restore the company’s reputation.

So, can good content save you from a PR disaster? Probably not completely. However, it can help with the aftermath and get you back on track. So, a bit of thought and some forward-planning is certainly worth it!